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Updated: Nebraska flooding, viewed from an Amtrak car

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We received this email from a traveler heading eastbound on Amtrak’s California Zephyr across Nebraska, which, along with other Midwest states, has been inundated with floodwaters from the Missouri River.    

June 29. The train is gliding slowly through what appears at times as a huge lake. The water is so close to the tracks that I can't see the embankment at all. Only water. Before we crossed the Missouri River I stayed in my room and saw only one side. From the observation car I can now see that we are frequently on a long long isthmus of protected tracks.

I have seen the top half of telephone poles, house roof tops, the top of a pickup truck, truck tankers.

We crossed the Missouri on a high bridge. It was impossible to tell where the banks were.

The train is going about 20 mph and moving very quietly, with almost no bumping or swaying.

This is an amazing experience for me. It must be a horrible experience for those who live here.

Update: Amtrak has suspended service on two routes due to flooding. It canceled service between St. Louis and Kansas City on the Amtrak Missouri River Runner "at least through July 6." It also suspended service until further notice between St. Paul, Minn., and Havre, Mont., on its Empire Builder trains. 

The tortoise and the air

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It's a familiar story: You got up at the crack of dawn to get to the airport to catch an important flight to a critical meeting (or that cruise ship that's sailing at 4:30 sharp.) And now that flight is delayed.

By mechanical failures? Crew scheduling? Birds? Weather?

Try: turtles.

The Associated Press reported that dozens of flights at New York's Kennedy Airport today were delayed by an average of 30 minutes after about 150 turtles crawled onto, and across, the tarmac.

JetBlue also tweeted the news, adding #cantmakethisup.

Why did the turtle cross the road? According to the AP report, this migration happens every year. The airport is built near New York's Jamaica Bay, and in late June or early July the diamondback terrapins leave the bay and crawl, slow-and-steady-like, toward a beach to lay their eggs.

As for 3 p.m. delays at JFK were still down to 15 minutes or less.

Southwest pilot rant on tape

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New drama in the skies: A Southwest pilot with a stuck microphone transmitted a profanity-laden tirade against gay, female and senior flight attendants across Texas airspace, overheard by the FAA, other flight crews -- and, now, anyone with Internet access.

The March rant most likely ocurred during a flight from Austin and San Diego, news reports said; passengers didn't hear the pilot's offensive comments about "gays, grannies and grandes" en route, but other cockpit crews did, as well as air traffic controllers, who tried to break in to silence the pilot.

According to news reports, Southwest suspended the unnamed pilot without pay and ordered him to undergo sensitivity training. He is now back on the job.

A report from NBC's Houston affiliate KPRC, below, includes a (mostly) censored transcript of the pilot's monologue. Listen at your own risk, but if you're able to make it to the end of the video, listen for other crews chiming in to say: "That was not us!" and "they wonder why airline pilots have a bad reputation."


 Southwest's vp of flight operations, Chuck Magill, recorded an apology on behalf of the pilot.

Meanwhile, according to reports, Southwest's flight attendants' union may file a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the airline.


Unveiling the Airbus 'Concept Cabin'

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One day, travelers may take to the skies in in an airplane with partially transparent walls, offering panoramic views of the world outside. 
It’s a plane most travel-minded people would only dream about. And Airbus expects it to take off. In about, oh, 40 years.

You can take a virtual tour of Airbus' Concept Cabin prototype here. Airbus has the released details in anticipation of next week’s Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport.

AirbusdayAnd what a prototype: Images of the forward cabin with wall-and-ceiling-windows have the power to set flyers' hearts aflutter -- either in anticipation or fear. You can see images of the concept during the day, left, and at night, right.

Those looking for a newer, greener and distinctly more user-friendly flight experience will welcome the Concept Plane, which intends to transform the humdrum and sometimes downright unpleasant nature of commercial flights.

The proposed jet offers different zones to suit the preferences of its passengers. A vitalizing zone will “bring the passenger closer to nature,” i.e. the transparent skin of the plane could make travelers feel like they are literally soaring through the clouds. The smart tech zone lets travelers confer with colleagues on land or read a bedtime story to the kids at home.Airbusnight 

The interaction zone would host bars, virtual shopping and gaming experiences and pop-up pods for more privacy.
 In an effort to avoid class distinctions, passengers are divided based on how they want to spend their flight.

And say goodbye to invasions of privacy and silent battles over armrests: All travelers receive the same style of seat, which will stand independent of rows and morph to best fit their form. 

The green factor will be upped, as well, making the plane “fully ecological,” according to Airbus. If everything goes as planned, the plane will actually improve the environment. Body heat would be harnessed to power cabin facilities, and the entire cabin would be 100% recyclable.  -- By Kris Fronzak 


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